Starting and continuing as a labor of love, www.vinylabuse.com grew from an idea and is now the United Kingdom’s premier toy resource. Growing from a small team of three founders, Vinyl Abuse now boasts a full team of contributors including designers TADO and Peskimo. From the studio to the street, Vinyl Abuse and its team reports on what’s most important to collectors – and they would know, being collectors and fans themselves. Collect3d sits down with co-founders Stu & Jason and talks toys, blogs, and Vinyl Abuse.
“We [want] to maintain an intimate relationship with the community.”
C3D: Please introduce your site. When did you start it, and what was your biggest challenge in the initial development? How did you overcome the challenge?
Jason: Vinyl Abuse started 4 years ago when me and Stu – avid vinyl enthusiasts – decided that a decent blog/magazine was needed that was dedicated to vinyl toy news in the UK. We didn’t really have a big challenge, we hyped up the website so much before it launched that visitors came quite easily, the news was flooding in and people were really wanting to have an interview. We were lucky to have a few good illustrators like TADO and Peskimo help out at the beginning by doing interviews and spreading the word about Vinyl Abuse.
Stu: When we launched in August 2005 we had already hyped the website by visiting the popular forums such as Kidrobot and a few others which are now defunct. We also printed out a whole bunch of stickers and sent them out to quite a few people as-well as sticking them everywhere ourselves (which isn’t entirely legal..). I think the biggest challenge for a start up website is creating hype to obtain and maintain enough traffic to make it worthwhile, and then having something about your website that differentiates it from the rest.
C3D: Since starting your site, what have been the most significant changes in designer toy culture, specifically as it relates to media?
Stu: Designer toy culture has massively grown in the five years since we started, it has evolved into a complex and diverse marketplace and has been pushed into the mainstream.
It used to be already established and well known artists, designers and illustrators that had the biggest opportunity of having a piece produced by a company, whereas these days it is much easier for newcomers and up and coming artists to participate in a Dunny series, for example.
In regards to the media, news channels have done reports on Urban Vinyl and other toy related exhibitions, celebrities such as Katy Perry have been spotted shopping at Kidrobot, vinyl toys have been spotted in music videos, and Michael Lau’s figures can be seen in Royal Mail ads here in the UK!
Jason: I think there has been an increase in websites reporting on vinyl. Vinyl has become a lot more popular than when we started 4 years ago which is the reason for all these websites. Because of its popularity increase, I seem to see vinyl popping up everywhere now – whether its in Music Videos, on TV shows or even in documentaries such as Japanorama that had a specific episode dedicated to vinyl.
C3D: With many development opportunities available on the Internet and in other media, why have you chosen to remain a blog?
Stu: When we started Vinyl Abuse, we wanted to maintain an intimate relationship with the community and so our main interest from the start was to post news which we felt was most relevant to our readers and to maintain an active forum which would be a good place for other like-minded people to hang out, and a good introductory point for newcomers to get to grips with the toys, terminology, artists etc. When we started, we were focusing mainly on the UK scene and artists but have since expanded to cover all aspects of the culture, from the toys to the various forms of art that inspire it.
Jason: We started out as a blog because that seemed the easiest way to get the news across to people. But we added extra features like articles and interviews. Lately, because of the increase in blogs on vinyl toys we are kind of moving in a different direction with our website and trying to make it more of a community rather than just a website to view news. I think blogs have become outdated and everyone has them and the majority of the content is the same.
C3D: With so much of the same content being distributed on the Internet, how does your site separate itself from its competitors?
Stu: This is something that has become more of an issue as time has gone by. With so many new sites starting up, it gets harder to differentiate from the rest and at times it can be easy to slip into becoming a press release blog/site. We are at present working on a new site which will be a general hub for all things designer toy, with interviews, articles, reports, posts by artists and companies and a community boosting forum/social networking side of things.
Jason: We get a lot of our news from the main sources like the toy makers themselves, distributors etc so thats how we seem to stay separate from our competitors. We also try to report on vinyl related news in the UK and are going to push that a bit more in the next update of Vinyl Abuse.
C3D: To what degree do you feel your site develops, and/or, influences toy culture?
Jason: It helps keep it alive! Without websites/blogs I think the toy culture wouldn’t be as popular – that goes for any kind of product really. The internet helps to push things along – so we are doing our bit to keep people informed and updated on toy culture.
Stu: Not only that, but sites like ours give people the chance to gain exposure of their work, be it customs, artwork or self made runs of toys. I think we play a part (whatever the size), along with other top notch sites such as Vinyl Pulse and TOYSREVIL, in informing people of something or someone they may have otherwise never known about.
C3D: To what degree is your site a reflection of your personal interests?
Jason: The website doesn’t make any profit, its all done in personal time out of love! Love for keeping the site and the community and love for actual vinyl toys. Me and Stu started the site because we collected vinyl and still collect vinyl.
Stu: A big one, I got into designer toys through the work of Michael Lau, SuperDeux, Tado, Pete Fowler and went on to discover a whole world of interesting new toys and in turn the artists, designers, illustrators and sculptors themselves. It was from a passion for the art behind the toys that pushed us both to create a site to share our admiration of it with others.
C3D: What are the biggest challenges your site is currently dealing with?
Jason: Maintaining returning visitors is a tough challenge for every site. When Vinyl Abuse first started it generated quite a lot of visits and the forum was jam packed at one point. Possibly because of the increase in other sites and news sources our hits to the site have slowly dropped but seem to be picking up again. Also, I think maintaining other content and not just news is a tough one. Getting interviews ready, writing articles, it all takes time and majority of our spare time is took just reading through emails and sorting out the news. Spam.
Stu: I’d have to say spam is a big one right now, although myself and Okkle seem to have it (mostly) under control now. Second would be keeping the content fresh, we get a sometimes overwhelming amount of email and it’s down to us to cherry-pick the most relevant stuff and to add personality to posts whenever possible.
Money could be an issue for some but in general, it isn’t too expensive to run our site. With the new site design around the corner, we’ll be adding advertisements and sponsored posts which will allow us to generate an income to go toward future Vinyl Abuse projects, be that toys, exhibitions or new site upgrades.
C3D: What advice can you offer to someone interested in starting a blog for commercial interests?
Jason: To be original – nobody wants to see another carbon copy of another website. People need fresh news and a fresh idea. Blogs also need a bit of personality to them, if the entries to your blog are devoid of that certain personal touch, it can read like a list or a catalogue. Treat it less like a newspaper and more like a conversation between people that are into the same things as yourself.
Stu: Have the passion to do so, you only get out of it what you put into it. You can’t be totally driven by money because you still need to be enthused by what you write about and need to sometimes spend time to scour websites and forums for rumors, teasers and the latest news I’d say as a general rule of thumb, if you find that you HAVE to post about something even at 3am, then you’re definitely capable… or a little insane, its a fine line.
More info: www.vinylabuse.com